Things are looking up for The Chinese Room, the studio behind Dear Esther and Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, as they've been bought by a group who also own Snake Pass devs Sumo Digital. It seems like a big reversal of fortune, letting The Chinese Room get stuck into work again. Around this time last year, the English studio laid off their development team and went quiet after financial and personal pressures became too much. They did say they might return, and here they are as part as Sumo Group.
Sumo Group have bought The Chinese Room and got co-founder Dan Pinchbeck on-board as its creative director. Sumo say that fellow co-founder Jessica Curry, who was behind their wonderful music and also company director, "will continue her career independently as a composer."
It sounds like The Chinese Room are getting back to work, expanding their team, continuing their current projects (plural), "and collaborating with other Sumo Digital studios." Y'know, making stuff.
"Sumo will provide the support and experience I'm looking for to take The Chinese Room to the next level," Pinchbeck said in today's announcement. "Our aim is to build on the reputation I'm proud to have earned, to create a truly world-class studio delivering bold, imaginative new games. We're already working on some really fantastic new concepts, alongside discussions with partners about some of the games we already have in the pipeline. The future for the studio is incredibly exciting and being part of the Sumo family is absolutely central to that."
When the studio called a time-out last year, they said they were done with walking simulators, that they "wanted to do something more complex, more involved and bigger scale." Of course I'd argue that they have never made walking simulators and saying they have misrepresents a wonderful genre, but I'm contrary like that.
Pinchbeck spoke a little on The Chinese Room's blog about what they might be up to next:
"Firstly, those existing concepts that didn’t get made. They are still very much on the table. Before leaving us to pursue his own games, the uber-talented Andrew Crawshaw and I worked up a new prototype of The 13th Interior, with the fantastic support of the UK Games Fund. The game still needs a little bit of work to nail down some core mechanics, but then it's finding the right opportunity to roll out the rest of development. It's very much still in the plan to finish it up at some point. There were also two other concepts we were playing around with – very different types of games for us – and they will remain gently percolating in the background."
He also talks about the possibility of a new-new game that becomes possible with Sumo's backing and which "takes a more traditional game genre – no, you don't get to know what just yet – and lets us spin our worlds and stories on top of that."
Sumo own a number of studios, including the former CCP one in Newcastle which made EVE: Valkyrie. They're becoming quite prominent, between making their own games, making games for others like the Sonic race 'em ups for Sega, and collaborating on games including Crackdown 3. A busy lot.